Ups and Downs since Black Tuesday

Ups and Downs since Black Tuesday
Florida’s Taxation and Budget Reform Committee (TBRC) is empowered to place proposals/Amendments to be voted on by Florida’s taxpayers at November’s ballot. The TBRC passed a proposal to replace the school portion ($8B) of property taxes with a 1% increase in sales tax (about $4B), and the shortfall to be made up by State budget reallocations and removal of some sales-tax exemptions. They are continuing their deliberations and may place other Amendments on the upcoming ballot. I will not venture a guess on how Florida’s voters will respond, but while this proposal will not achieve equity, if passed, it promises a reduction of about 30% on the property tax bill for all property owners.
The Alabamans’ Constitutional challenge (Lanning case) is moving full steam ahead. The Tax Foundation, a “nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C with a mission to educate taxpayers about sound tax policy and the size of the tax burden”, will probably initiate an Amicus Brief in support of the Constitutional challenge.
Ken Kania’s Constitutional challenge  in Federal Court was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. Ken is contemplating an appeal.
Cut Property Taxes Now has collected over 150,000 signatures to place an Amendment on the November 2008 ballot to put a 1.35% cap on property taxes. Unfortunately, the requirement was for 611,000 signatures by last January to get it on the ballot without going through the legislature. Nevertheless, the power of the 150,000 signatures is being used to influence the legislators, who could still place the Amendment on the November ballot.
This week there was an interesting article by Peter Brieger in the Financial Post “The Other Chapter 11”  where reference is made to NAFTA Chapter 11 which appears to contain the following protection for investors under NAFTA: “Each Party shall accord to investors/investments of another Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to its own investors/investments with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation, and sale or other disposition of investments.” And “The treatment accorded by a Party …with respect to a state or province, treatment no less favourable than the most favourable treatment accorded, in like circumstances, by that state or province to investors, and to investments of investors”. It sounds like Canadians’ personal part-time use property (investment) may be entitled to compensation from the U.S. government to recover the excess property tax burden, as compared to homesteaded Floridians. I’ll put out some feelers to explore whether this would be a viable parallel path to challenge Save-Our-Homes.
Also in the Financial Post, William Hanley’s “(Banks get creative)- Snowbirds beware: Steep property taxes for Florida non-residents are driving some out of their winter gateways” exposes Florida’s ongoing discriminatory treatment of non-resident (non-homesteaded) property owners. Bill very perceptively notes that “Florida’s economy is driven by tourism in general and snowbirds in particular. It’s unfathomable why the state would treat so shabbily out-of-state residents who have helped to build the economy. But politics will always trump principle” and Governor Crist “is enormously popular in Florida. So, he can help pluck the snowbirds with impunity.” I must say the response was overwhelming. My inbox is in overload and so am I, trying to respond to the questions and comments that people have sent to me on Florida’s property taxes and retirement finance in general. Keep the mail coming, though it will take me some time to respond to all, especially since I’ll be on the road for the next 7-10 days. Those wanting to take some action on the Florida tax situation can do so by sending a petition to Maxime Bernier, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister (if Canadian) or to your respective AGs in your state (if Americans) and ask them to prepare or sponsor an Amicus Brief in support of the Constitutional challenge under way in Florida. You can get more information on petition text at browact.org .
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